Mactung gets green light from assessors

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has issued its final recommendations on North American Tungsten's Mactung mine project.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has issued its final recommendations on North American Tungsten’s Mactung mine project.

The board says the project can go ahead as long as the company is able to use an existing road through N.W.T. to access the mine site, which straddles the territories’ border about 250 kilometers east of Ross River.

“We’re very happy. It’s a major milestone for the company,” said North American Tungsten board member Allan Krasnick, who holds responsibility for the Mactung project.

“We’re all quite excited about the opportunity to move from this stage to more detailed planning and development of the mine,” he said.

To access the mine site, the company will use the existing spur road, an extension of the Canol Road, which runs through the Northwest Territories for about 11 kilometres. The company had originally proposed building a new road that would remain entirely on the Yukon side of the border, in order to stay out of the N.W.T.‘s messy regulatory regime.

But it withdrew that plan last year on the advice of YESAB assessors, saying that the N.W.T.‘s devolution agreement would clean up the assessment issues on that side of the border.

The road was originally built decades ago but is in need of serious upgrading. The terrain is some of the most challenging in the territory.

“It’s only about 11 kilometres, so it’s not very much at all, but it is pretty steep,” said Krasnick, chuckling.

The company has yet to apply to the Mackenzie Valley Review Board for approval of the road project, but that will happen relatively soon, he said.

The other major stipulation in the YESAB approval is that the company must dispose of tailings and waste rock in underground shafts that sit below the natural water table. If tailings and waste rock are deposited above the table, there is concern that contaminants could seep down into the water, the recommendation document says.

Krasnick said that shouldn’t be an issue, in part because the company has recently finished refining a new state-of-the-art water treatment facility at its other major tungsten mine, Cantung. Last March that system was still in the testing phase, but it’s now fully operational, he said.

“That’s worked. We’ve now built a permanent plant. We’ve applied to the Mackenzie Valley Review Board to increase the amount of water we treat there.

“Everything’s nice and clean now. We tell Jason (McKenzie, the Cantung mine manager) that he’s got to take a sip from a glass of water out of that plant every day,” Krasnick joked.

The company plans to use the same technology at Mactung to treat the water there as well. Details will unfold soon, once the company reaches the next phase of its planning.

“There were a number of changes we made based on comments made and concerns raised. We’re moving into detailed planning this summer and will involve the Ross River Dena Council in that,” he said.

The Mactung project is one of the largest tungsten deposits in the world. Founded in 1962 by F.J. Allen (for whom the mountain is named), Mactung holds an estimated 33 million tonnes of tungsten ore. The project is expected to have an underground lifespan of 11.5 years, with the possibility of expanding to 17 years through open-pit mining. It will employ 250 people during construction and around 200 during operations,” Krasnick said.

“We still need a quartz-mining licence and a water licence. We probably won’t start construction for about a year and a half, I’d say,” he said.

The company also has to line up financing for the project, but Krasnick said the company has been in touch with potential backers throughout the process and he isn’t worried about finding the funds in time to start building.

Yukon’s economic development minister Currie Dixon said he was happy with the YESAB approval.

“We want to have a healthy mining industry and you need to have a healthy mining pipeline right from the exploration stage all the way up to the operating mine stage,” Dixon said, adding that Mactung is a perfect example of a project moving successfully along that pipeline.

“We now have two mines that have finished the assessment phase, Mactung and Victoria Gold’s Eagle Mine. That represents around three quarters of a billion in needed investment,” Dixon said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read